WARSAW - Poland's opposition parties elected their candidate as speaker of the Senate on Tuesday, a small victory that allows them to check the power of the populist right-wing ruling party.
Senator Tomasz Grodzki was chosen speaker in a 51-48 vote with one abstention during the first sitting of the new parliament that was elected in October. Grodzki hailed the move as a victory for democracy. Until Tuesday's vote, it was not certain that the opposition parties would manage to take control of the Senate.
For the past four years, the ruling Law and Justice party has put through laws giving it much greater power over the judicial system. The European Union has often expressed its concerns that the party was eroding judicial independence, warning that rule of law in the young democracy was on the line.
In many cases, with control of both houses of parliament, the party would rush laws through without allowing opposition lawmakers any say.
Now, the Senate will be able to slow down and influence, though not block, the passage of laws. Perhaps more importantly, the Senate has the power to appoint the heads of some key state bodies and the opposition — if it maintains its majority — will be able to block the nominations of some ruling party loyalists.
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